The drying of the will

The hot, dry winds from the Sahara still blow across Accra. The dust gets thicker and the attempts to stave it off become more desultory. Any notion you might have that equatorial Ghana is plush with forest, dripping water, snakes and crocodiles must be relinquished immediately! It is an effort to keep vivacity going through the long, hot days and it got me to thinking about the will and personal discipline.

What is our relationship with inner drives? We talk about how by strength of mind we can rein them in and channel them to our advantage but the fact of the matter is that for too much of the time they control us rather than the other way round. Let me take some examples. I’ll try to think of four. The first is keeping in shape. We now know that physical exercise elongates life’s path. Let yourself go and the brain suffers and you become prone to faster ageing and the various diseases associated with it. I have a pool, a gym and, separately, a treader with elastic skiing straps which I can mount and watch the tele as I go. This affords me the opportunity of watching documentaries and toning up. That’s the idea, anyway. But do I do it enough? No. There are days when something inside creeps out of the darkness of the unconscious mind and prevents me. I might go two days without pool or gym or treader. I feel really irritated afterwards but at the time I am blithely evasive about facing myself.

Now, what would be the second? Writing. I need to finish the third and last book in my fictional trilogy about the beginnings of humankind’s dallying with religion and the apparition of death. If I wrote two pages a day, I would be finished by May. But there are days when I do not write at all or prefer to do a blog like this or a number of emails to friends. My mind tells me that I need to think about the next piece of writing and allow it to gestate. But is that a fallacy? I know when I attack writing with discipline, no matter what corner my characters find themselves in, I can get them out by some alchemical process.

My third? I play the guitar and learn songs. I do this because it is good for me, I know. Highly meditative. I am not even averagely good at music. It is all a struggle to keep things improving. It goes back to when I was eleven and sang tenor to another boy’s contralto in concert parties to raise funds for a village hall. My voice broke and a deep musical depression fell upon me. So when I am playing and singing today I am facing the demons of early ageing!

There has to be a fourth. Probably hundreds more. Some things I manage without fail Diet, except when on holiday where I implode – or explode, actually! Daily raw fruit and vegetable juices for instance. Let me say, reading. There are books I should read. They would help in backing up my skimpy knowledge about the history of human thought but I just don’t. In fact, as I have said, I can’t bear fiction, which is well-researched because it seems to preclude the real power of the imagination. I read the odd page of non-fiction and a few bytes of the internet.

So, as you read this, what do you not do that you know you should? Why do you desist when you know the consequences could mean the lopping off of years of your life? What are the hot Sahara winds that lay you low and desultorily pondering?

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